It's a classic exercise in any art or photography class–create a self-portrait. It's a fun project that anyone can do anywhere. But what makes it such an excellent creative exercise? For one thing, there are no limits. Since you don't have to work with a model or communicate your vision to get the final result, you can shape and morph your portrait into the exact final product you want to show the world.
It's a stellar opportunity to showcase what makes you unique. You can experiment with lighting and take the composition in any direction you want. Once you get started, it's a fun process. But getting started is the hardest part. There are so many options and directions you could take, landing on one is sometimes tricky.
Here's a look at some self-portrait photography ideas that will get you started.
What is Self-Portraiture?
To qualify as a self-portrait, the photographer and the subject need to be the same person. There's no prohibition on having assistance, so if you want help with setting up or with hair and makeup, you can always welcome advice and support.
But in the end, the entire point is that the photograph is your creative expression of yourself. It allows you to apply your artistic mindset to creating a persona that you'd like to share with the world, something not everyone can do.
You can literally recreate yourself!
Smartphones have made one type of self-portrait famous. The selfie is now ubiquitous. And as drones become more popular, dronies are now catching on. Wide-angle action camera shots are another way to take selfies during sports and outdoor activities. But are selfies truly self-portraits? In reality, these techniques are more about capturing candids and meaningful moments to remember.
A better definition of a self-portrait is a created artwork of oneself. It takes some planning and careful execution. You can use any device you want to capture the image, be it a smartphone or a DSLR. But self-portraits are more likely to capture the spirit of a person–their attitudes and personality–than a mere selfie. Self-portraits are much closer to fine art than the snap-shot photography of the selfie. They use poses, props, lighting, and composition to make a cohesive statement. Think of them as portrait photography, but you have to do all the work and take the picture too.
Like classic portraits, these images range from stodgy formal poses to avant-garde exoteric pieces of fine art. From the beginning planning phases to the amount of post-production you want to do, you have complete control of your self-portrait. The central theme is creativity and making a statement about yourself.
Creative Self Portrait Ideas Photography Fundamentals and Tips
To get started taking self-portraits, you'll need to figure out how you're going to be in front of and behind the lens at the same time. There are a few ways, some of which may not be completely obvious. The selfie technique may work best for on-the-fly and impromptu photos. Just hold your camera at arm's length. But to make it special you might want to spend a little more time setting up and composing the details of your image.
If that's the case, a tripod will come in very handy. A good tripod is vital to allow you to support the camera stably. You can then use various accessories or settings built into the camera to take the actual image once you get yourself posed.
Nearly all camera bodies, even simple point-and-shoot cameras and smartphones, have a timer setting. You can select how long you want the camera to countdown, then press the shutter release and get yourself into position. There's usually a flashing light or some visual indicator that the picture has been taken. When combined with a tripod, the timer mode is all you need to take some fantastic self-portraits with any camera.
Most cameras also have some accessories that you can buy to trigger the shutter release remotely. Some newer digital models have companion apps for your smartphone. These are handy because it may allow you to see the camera's live-view. That's the best of both worlds since you can use the live-view to pose yourself and get the lighting just right. There's no rush like there is with the timer mode. Then you can trigger the shutter with a short timer, just enough for you to get the phone out of the frame.
If you don't have an app to help with the live-view, an old-world solution is to simply mount a mirror somewhere behind the camera. You can use it to check for posing and lighting, but it doesn't show you precisely what the camera sees. Regardless, it's a great help since it's impossible to move between behind the camera and in front of it without messing up your hair and wardrobe.
A few cameras' back LCDs will swing to the side and rotate to be viewed from in front of the camera. You don't need to have it to do a self-portrait, but it's handy to have. If you're very far from the camera, it's probably going to be too small and too far away to be of much use.
Another option to trigger the camera remotely is a wired or wireless remote shutter release. These are available online for a few dollars, and they come from both the major camera companies and generic manufacturers. They usually include timers with much more customization than the camera's built-in timer. For example, they can allow you to tell the camera to take one picture every five seconds for five frames, or any other way you want to arrange it.
Another option is to use the burst mode. The camera will capture as many images as it can write to its card. Some cameras can continue capturing until the card is full, while others will need to pause shooting to write the data to the card when the cache gets full. Either way, the idea is that it allows you to capture some movement or facial expressions as you shift around. It can be used creatively in a few ways. You might want to read our article on 25 simple Photography tips that will help you become better at your craft and take those stunning pictures that you always wanted.
Putting these images together from scratch can seem daunting. With every single element at your control, decision paralysis can set in easily. Remind yourself that it's just another portrait. It might help to consider yourself two people for a while, one the working photographer and the other the hired client! However you work your head around it, just start shooting and see what works.
The basic rules of composing and subject positioning apply. Pick the theme of your image. What is it about yourself that you want the world to know when they look at your self-portrait? No rule says it can't be fictional, either. This is a good phase of the creative process to do some brainstorming exercises to figure out reoccurring and interesting self-portrait ideas. It's also an excellent time to start looking online at what other photographers have done. Explore sharing sites like 500 Pixels or Flickr. There are a lot of fantastically creative people out there sharing their work.
Once you've narrowed down a theme, you can hunt for the location, the wardrobe, and any photography props you might need. You might keep it simple and just use what's around the house. Nothing says this needs to be a weeklong affair! Find a quiet corner near a window with great light or a secluded spot in the garden that you love. The important thing is that the location and the objects in the photo work for your message. If there's clutter, clear it up. Everything in the frame should have a purpose.
Once you set up the composition and the camera's on the tripod, you've got to get the settings dialed in just right. But how do you do it when you're not in the frame to check lighting, focus, and exposure?
You need to set your camera to fully manual to make this work because the difference between the light reflecting off the scene with and without you in it will make a big difference. You also aren't in the frame to focus on while you set up the camera, so use a stand-in object. Something that stands in the same location you will, and that's as tall as you are. Mark the position on the floor with tape so that you get your positioning just right. Then manually focus on the object and leave the focus alone after that.
Ten Creative Self Portrait Ideas Photography
Recreate Something You Love
They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery, and artists know this well. When looking for self portrait photography ideas, it's only natural that you would look online and see what other artists are doing. There are thousands of photographers sharing incredible creative works from all over the world.
Taking their completed work and sharing it as your own would be wrong. But there is no problem with getting inspired by their work and recreating what they did. You'll learn a lot about the process along the way, and you will invariably add your own twist to things.
Display your work and share photo stories on your portfolio website. If you are wondering how to make a portfolio website then Pixpa is a portfolio website builder platform that is trusted by creative pros around the world. Have a look at some stunning portfolio website examples.
Of course, other photographers aren't your only source of inspiration. You can also visit a museum and look at classic paintings and drawings. You could also recreate scenes from films and television.
Use a Mirror
Not every mirror selfie is a quick snap-shot on your way to the gym. The mirror is a great way to make some cool effects, and it adds an intriguing frame to the photo. When you shoot with the mirror, you can include your camera, which is the perfect prop for a self-portrait of a photographer!
Try Some Black and Whites
Nothing shakes up your photography like the simple removal of all color data. It has been true since the moment color film hit the market. Black and whites are unusual and artistic.
But it's not as simple as turning saturation to zero in post-production. To be outstanding, the photographer should have a vision for a B&W before taking the picture. They should make their lighting and composition choices to compliment that outcome. That's not to say that you can't desaturate a color photo and get good results occasionally. It's just that that's not the path to consistent results.
Black and white photographs add drama and interest. They are best for images with a broad dynamic range, with deep shadows balanced with bright highlights. They are excellent for accentuating shape and form, and they work best with low-key lighting. Black and whites are great for showing texture.
Act It Out
Your self-portrait can be a personal fantasy, too. A great way to spur creativity is to take up acting! You can take this idea as far as you'd like. Whatever your dream role is, there's no reason you can't act it out for a unique and creative self-portrait.
To play the part, you might just use the pose and composition from a familiar movie. Or you could dive in and get in full wardrobe, too. You could even get elaborate with set design and props. You can use post-production to make special effects, whether for fantasy images or sci-fi. Have fun with it! Dragonslayer, pirate, ballplayer, or starship captain–the choice is yours!
Experiment with Crazy Wardrobe and Hair
If you want your portrait to make a statement that is different than everyday life, go all-in on the wardrobe and hair. Take it to the next level and go over-the-top. What you don't want to do is make it confused with what you would see on the street, you want something that really stands out.
If this isn't your forte, ask a friend for help. There's no reason you can't have some help shooting your self-portrait. Hair, special effects makeup, and wardrobe choices are all areas where you can bring in a little help from friends and family.
A diptych is a two-framed image that helps tell a story. A triptych has three frames, and so on. It is an ancient art form that dates back to Roman carvings and paintings from the Middles Ages. Artworks were usually mounted on a hinge, so they could be closed to protect them. Religious paintings were also commonly put in diptychs, so small icons could be carried much like photo lockets are used today.
In photography, diptychs are kind of like the photo series you see come out of photo booths in rom-com movies. You can combine a series of expressions or poses to tell a story, frame by frame. The idea can be combined with other techniques and stitched together in post-production.
Get Dramatic with Effects
There are all sorts of fantastic photo effects that look amazing, but sometimes it's hard to put your finger on exactly when the right time to use them is. Think about sparkler trail photos, smoke bomb photography, laser light effects, and deeply colored lighting. It all looks terrific, but you can't usually use it for regular family portraits. But with self-portraits, you are your own boss!
You can include in this other regular photography techniques that you want to learn or maybe just need to brush up on. Use it as an opportunity to learn a new lighting setup. If you're usually a high-key portrait photographer, switch it up and experiment with low-key lighting. Play with shadows and effects. Silhouettes always make for striking photos, too.
The Macro Study
Maybe "macro" is a bit misleading, but the idea is that you don't need to focus on the standard framing when making your self-portrait. You can do extreme close-ups of various features, like your hands or your eyes. Doing these shots makes you a master of composition since the classic portrait elements are taken away. Standard poses don't work or must be modified, so the image comes down to balance and flow. It's all on you!
Nothing catches the eye like a genuinely unique macro photograph. Read more in our Complete Guide on Macro Photography.
Experiment with Post-Production
One of the easiest ways to get original with self-portraits is to go crazy during post-production. There isn't a better set of photos on which for you to try new things.
Some of the methods you see used online have matching video tutorials, one of the best ways of learning new editing techniques. You can use it as an opportunity to learn skills that you want to apply to your commercial portrait business, or you could just get artistic and create complete works of art.
In the digital world, you can also create double or multiple exposures in post. Not many cameras have the functionality built-in anymore, but you can easily create the same effects by stacking them in post-production. This method produces much better and much more controllable results, too. Just stack a series of images taken while the camera was on a tripod.
Self Portrait Ideas Drawing
None of the ideas above are limited to photography. For any visual artist, self-portraits are a great exercise in creativity and mastering your medium. Like black and white self-portrait ideas drawing usually focuses on form, shape, and texture.
Photographers should work on their drawing skills, too. Drawing and storyboarding is a great way to put your creative ideas on paper, so you have something to work from. It helps you work on framing and composition.
Sometimes it can be hard to come up with self-portrait ideas on your own. Many times, a few hours of online browsing will provide all of the inspiration you need. With a basic understanding of the different techniques used and tools available, most photographers can come up with original and unique self-portraits in no time. If you have been inspired by great photos found online, remember to pay it forward and share your work for others to be inspired by!
Here are 29 Outstanding Photography Portfolio websites built on Pixpa, for you to get inspiration and ideas. These photographers have made excellent use of Pixpa, an easy to use website builder to showcase their photos. You can draw inspiration from these creative professionals and study their portfolios, to get a clearer idea of how you want to showcase your repertoire of work.
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